5/11/2010
Project Allison: the Paragon collide

Valerie, being the superfan, has lots more experience with stalking. Or should we call it stalking? When I hear that word I think of shady characters hiding behind bushes, walking in tip-toes and possessing a pair of binoculars. Anyway, apparently she half-tailed Michael Johns. Apparently she half-tailed Lenka, too.

"Half-tailed" sounds much better. As far as I know she isn't really the sort who goes as far as doing serious research on an artist's itinerary whenever he comes to the country. All she does is go to the official events: in this case, all the mall shows. Pretty much what my cousin did when Cobra Starship came to the country.

"Hindi na kami tumuloy sa hotel ni Kelly Clarkson," she told me as our cab brought us to Robinson's Place Manila.

Okay, maybe I was wrong.

It was no surprise, then, that she floated the plan of following Allie around. She knew there'd be a couple of radio interviews, and she knew that fans would probably be allowed in. The problem was, she hasn't tried that before.

That's where I come in. Of course, I was the radio geek in college - I still am - and I tried many times, unsuccessfully, to join the student DJ programs of several radio stations. And, of course, there were the stupid biters, my only attempt at being a superfan of sorts, ending in a spectacular, terribly confusing backfire. All I'm saying is, I've had some experience with visiting radio studios. I've had experience just hanging out in cold studios, watching DJs fade out songs and not give you much attention. It's the sad anorak in me.

For some reason, we agreed that we would pay a visit to the Paragon Plaza. Imogen told us that Allie'd have an interview on the Magic at midday. Now, there's one reason why I thought of not going to the concert in the first place: I hate the Magic. That, and that time of day means those stupid biters again. I said no on Monday night but Valerie convinced me to go on Tuesday morning. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance," she tweeted. And so, I thought, fine, let's go, but let's go together, because I don't wanna be there alone. I navigate. You negotiate.

Valerie woke up late. I actually sent her a text message at six in the morning. She slept shortly after, woke up three hours later, and realized she wouldn't make it to the studios in time. So much for me maneuvering my half-day leave at work, moving my departure time from 13.00 to 12.00. That was the easy part of the whole plan. Now, a new addition to the plan, and I had to do it myself.

We talked many times about our plans to join 99.5 RT's student-and-then-some DJ program. Inka was goading us, but we delayed and delayed until we missed the first batch. There's still a second batch, she said a couple of weeks ago. I thought I'd give myself a different reason for going to Paragon by myself: submit our CVs for the program, and maybe catch a glimpse of Allie along the way. But I still wasn't excited. But I already committed. I had to do it. For a moment, I was the superfan.

"Malalakad ko from our building to Paragon," I said, recalling an event a couple of years ago when I walked from the Magic studios to the far side of Ortigas. Surprisingly, my feet didn't hurt and it wasn't as hot.

But time wasn't on my side. I missed Allie enter the studios. Imogen - and a handful of other people - were acting as my support group on Twitter. "My niece just texted me, Allison's on Showtime," Gerard said. I figured I could make it on time, but I ended up in a convenience store buying a bottle of cola. I was waiting for Valerie to arrive. She said she'd take a cab to get there quickly. She then asked me to go up.

"Pwedeng pumasok sa 907?" I told the guard, referring to the Magic studios' unit number.

"Bakit?"

"May interview daw?"

"Interview kanino?"

"Kay Allison daw?"

"Sa labas ka lang pwedeng maghintay."

"Pwedeng may i-drop ako sa RT?"

"Ano yun?"

"Resumé."

"Para saan?"

"Sa Farm."

"Tapos na yun, di ba?"

"May second batch pa raw."

"Sino nagsabi sa'yo?"

"Si Inka."

"Pano niya sinabi sa'yo? Text? Email?"

"YM."

I haven't been to a radio studio in two years. I completely forgot how the guards will treat random visitors: as people stalking radio DJs. I learned that as a biter. No, I wasn't the stalker. I had privileged information before that unfortunate backfire. People actually stalk DJs. They get low pay and they get stalked. So, to protect them from such people, the security people would interrogate you by pretending to know nothing about what you're talking about. That, and state-of-the-act locks.

I waited on the corridors. Paragon has narrow corridors, maybe four feet wide, five feet wide. I spent the next sixty minutes calling Valerie, asking for her location - she got a slow cab - or pretending to be calling Valerie, not looking like the absolute stranger that I am. I spent ten minutes seated inside a toilet, busy finishing up my soda and nothing else. I pretty much forgot the existence of my Twitter support group, partly because it costs me five bucks to log-in. Apparently Allie switched radio stations - both sponsors have studios across one corridor, and I was in another. If I checked, I would've known.

But the catch is, I'm perhaps the most timid person in the world. In those sixty minutes my stomach kept on turning, and I didn't blame it on the soda. It was jitters. Absolute jitters. You know, the feeling that one of your favorite performers, one that you spent the best part of four months enthusing about, is suddenly within 50 meters of you.

I called Valerie again. She learned of the studio switch, and is worried that she wouldn't make it. Being the Paragon veteran, I told her how to navigate her way through the many elevators: go to the nearest shafts, and when you reach the ninth, turn left, and walk until you reach the very last door. I figured we'd just meet there before heading for the mall.

To my left, a fairly tall woman turned a corner and started walking towards me, or actually, towards the elevators. She was in black, she was an inch shorter than me, and she had red hair.

I was stunned.

I was face-to-face with Allie. I was six inches away. It was pretty much her, a really small entourage, and me, a fan who could've taken an extra photo, like that employee whose phone had a slight hint of red scalp on the display. But I was on the phone.

"She just passed by," I told Valerie, out of breath and terribly jittery.

"So pano ulit ako aakyat diyan?"

"No, Valerie. She just passed by."

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